Globalization and International Trade
March 27th 2013
Essay title: “Activists over the world protest against sweatshops. What, if anything, should be done about sweatshop labour and by whom?”
Sweatshop labour is an angle of globalization that has landed into a controversial debate amongst international actors. Stained with negative connotation, sweatshops involve unenviable conditions, exhausting hours of work and hazardous practices, all for extremely low wages. Thus, this context of work has driven the incentives of transnational corporations to seek lower costs and transfer their productions to developing countries with more accommodating entry barriers. Yet, this growing trend of outsourcing has brought more than just a rise in profits for companies. It has called for the international community to behold the exploitation of these vulnerable economies. Activists and students alike have taken this issue to new heights within the past decade, campaigning for higher wages, improved conditions, and even eliminating the factories. A response from economists and businessmen has surfaced to defend their ethically acceptable resort to sweatshops. Bearing in mind the flagrant disregards to labour rights, the scholarly-backed support for sweatshops stems rather from their concern for economic efficiency. They promote mainly that raising wages will inevitably disable the workforce's advantage and haul off foreign investment. This support of sweatshop labour has led to reproachful accusations to the proponents. In the eyes of the average consumer, their implication in this process makes them responsible for the oppression. Without doubt, firms can be reproached for neglecting human concerns, but their aim is strictly entrepreneurial, and not a social incentive. The purpose of this essay will not to spare firms from their liabilities towards sweatshops or their workers. In fact, my aim is to clarify why the activism behind sweatshop closure is a disservice to workers and their fragile economies. This essay will provide an overview of the polarized positions held on sweatshop labour through three main parts. The first part will identify the stances opposing and supporting sweatshops .The second part will contemplate both accounts of suggestions on what needs to be done, before arguing which seems more fit. Finally, the last part of this essay will identify the actors of such reforms, if prevailing, and the outcome of the sweatshop controversy. *
The deplorable condition of sweatshops has led activists from developed countries to campaign against labour practices abroad. With images of children sewing sneakers in their minds, they portray how their domestic retailers are supplied via manufacturing practices that are illegal in their countries (Arnold &Bowie). Picked up by the media, the emotional implications behind sweatshop labour have rallied through the heated controversy, and have charged retail giants such as GAP and Wal-Mart with sweat on their hands, rather than blood. The main criticism to sweatshop labour is the unethical treatment of workers. They describe the absence of alternatives as a tool to take advantage of workers, forcing them to agree to poor labour conditions and strenuous working hours. Defenders argue that this is not coercion. Workers' choice of accepting this work, as the best source of income available to them is a voluntary act, and a wise one for that matter. Since desperation is a wide-scale problem in these countries, complying with these terms is a much easier call to make than being plagued by unemployment (Robinson). Campaigners have discounted and discredited workers choices and personal judgement for work as the results of deep ignorance and internalised coercion. (Maitland) Yet, these activists do not dispute that sweatshop workers are far from being the...